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Capello warns England stars not to take it easy

SoccerNews in English Premier League, MLS 27 May 2008


Fabio Capello has warned England's weary stars they can't afford to start their holidays early by coasting through Wednesday's friendly against the USA.

Capello knows his squad are feeling the aches and pains of a gruelling campaign, but he has no intention of taking it easy at the start of his first prolonged England get-together.

The chance to spend 10 days with his team and play friendlies against the Americans and then Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain next Sunday is invaluable for Capello ahead of next season's World Cup qualifying campaign.

But Capello will trim his 28-man squad to 21 ahead of the Trinidad game and could reward the players who took part in last week's emotionally draining Champions League final by allowing them to miss the trip – if they impress on Wednesday.

So just seven days after United's dramatic win over Chelsea in Moscow, the likes of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Frank Lampard will have to summon up one last effort to satisfy the Italian taskmaster.

“When you play for the national team you have to play like it is a final in every game,” Capello said.

“Against USA I want to see one team playing like a group, with courage, and strength. It is very important for me to recover the spirit of the England team.

“Everyone has to come when I select them and these players have to play with the spirit like they do at their clubs.

“My ambition is to arrive at the top. You have to work to change the mentality. I believe we can do that but the players must also believe.

“England had two teams in the Champions League final and they are ambitious teams. You have to transmit the same ambitions in the England team.”

Michael Owen's withdrawal due to a virus gives Capello the chance to experiment with his forward line and West Ham striker Dean Ashton could earn his first cap.

But Capello's most significant decision will be how he handles David Bentley's challenge to David Beckham on the right wing.

Beckham won his 100th cap in England's last friendly – a 1-0 defeat against France in Paris – but Blackburn winger Bentley is pressing hard to replace the LA Galaxy star.

Bentley's self-confidence knows no bounds but even he admits replacing an icon like Beckham won't be easy.

“I really respect him. What he's done for England, he's been brilliant,” Bentley said. “Through hard times, he's worked so hard and every time he's out on the pitch he delivers.

“I have to keep performing. Just because I played well in a few games, it doesn't mean I should take someone like David Beckham's place.

“I have a good relationship with him. I watch the way he goes about his business, sure. I look to learn off him, definitely.”

USA coach Bob Bradley will use the match to blood several untried youngsters as he looks ahead to the 2010 World Cup, but there should still be an emotional 100th cap for Beckham's Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan.

Even if he fields an experimental team, Bradley expects to put on a good show.

“Are we expecting to win? We come with the idea of competing with a good team and finding a way to win so I suppose the answer is yes,” he said.

“But Capello is a great manager. Certainly his understanding of the game and his work for a number of different teams will pay off for England.”



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